Google has given developers for its Android mobile operating system a boost by increasing the number of countries from which users can access paid content on its Android Market application store. Android users from 32 countries will soon have access to paid content with the addition of Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Sweden, and Taiwan. Developers in 29 countries will also be able to sell content via Android Market.
Android has been enjoying significant growth; Screen Digest expects Android smartphone shipments to grow 350 per cent to more than 30m throughout 2010. The slow roll out of paid applications to more countries has, however, held application revenues back and been a major source of dissatisfaction among Android developers.
Android users download a similar number of applications compared with iPhone owners. But the predominance of free content on Android Market means that total 2010 Android Market download revenues will only be around €50m compared with more than €1bn on Apple's App Store.
The roll out of paid applications to more countries will boost revenues, but more is needed for Android Market's success to match the growth in its user base.
Payment for Android applications is currently limited to Google's own Google Checkout service (apart from its deal with T-Mobile in the US). For Android Market revenues to increase, Google will need to expand the number of payment options. Network operator deals to provide integrated billing will likely be the most successful option. A deal with online payment provider PayPal to enable direct Android Market purchases is also expected soon. Nokia has reported that paid downloads grow more than 13 times when operator billing is available to its application store customers.
The success of Android Market may also be hindered by the availability of content from other sources. Unlike Apple, which only allows content for its iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) from its own App Store, anyone can offer paid content for Android outside of Google's Android Market. Leading network operators including Verizon in the US, and Vodafone and Orange in the UK, now offer their own Android application stores. Third parties such as online retailer Amazon are set to launch their own Android application stores. To ensure Android remains a successful mobile operating system, Google needs to prove developers can do business selling Android content. However, Google does not necessarily need to achieve this via Android Market.